Barbecued Biker

A tagline on a story this week is a homage to a popular subtype of humor email I get from friends from time to time: photos of (usually) Chinese people carrying impossibly huge loads on little motorbikes.

First the story from True’s 17 February 2008 issue, then some examples of the genre.


After a reader snapped a shot of him on the freeway, the Melbourne, Vic., Australia, Herald Sun newspaper tracked down the motorcyclist who had figured out a way to transport a gas barbecue on his bike. “Stuart” admitted it was not his first odd motorcycle transport: the 27-year-old native New Zealander has also moved a couch on his bike. “People say it can’t be done, but I proved them wrong,” he said. He admitted such transports were dangerous and pledged not to do it again — perhaps because the police were looking for him after the photo in the newspaper. (Melbourne Herald Sun) …Said Chinese motorcyclists who viewed the photo: “He was only carrying ONE?!”

I do have the photo that the motorist took (hover over the photos for pop-ups on what you’re seeing):

Here are some examples of the genre from Asia, from my files:

Loaded with boxes — plus one wife.

Carrying a refrigerator

A large load of eggs.

A large painting.

Family of 7 on one bike.

August 2010 Update

Well, the Melbourne biker’s name isn’t “Stuart,” and he was right to be concerned that the cops might be looking for him.

Michael Wiles, now 29, appeared before Magistrate Lionel Winton-Smith, who said he’s “seen people with perhaps bits of wood sticking out of the car, but a barbecue? I’m trying to think of a word to describe it.”

“Ridiculous?” offered Wiles’s lawyer, Paul McClure.

“Ridiculous. That will do,” the magistrate said.

McClure also noted that the grill was “a dud,” and “That’s probably why it was on the side of the road.”

How Do You Plead?

The charge was careless driving, and Wiles pleaded guilty. The court appearance turned into a discussion platform about the large motorcycle loads seen in Asia, as shown on this page, but Wiles “has been effectively used as an advertisement for what not to do on the roads, which he is wholly and completely in agreement with,” the attorney said.

“You could have been charged with culpable driving and facing the County Court if someone had lost their life” in an accident, Winton-Smith lectured — and then fined Wiles A$800 (US$752) and suspended his license for one month.

“I felt it was right to accept some responsibility,” Wiles said after his day in court. “The main point is that I’m happy that there was some justice served, and this might encourage the right manner of responsibility of drivers in Australia.”

And has he replaced the “dud” barbecue? “I’m better off without one,” he said.

– – –

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36 Comments on “Barbecued Biker

  1. I spent a year in South Korea, and I was constantly amazed, impressed, and terrified by the loads that the drivers would pile on their trucks. Things would be piled twice the height of the truck, be strapped down with a few ropes and a prayer, and off they would go. The whole truck would lean when they went around corners, the load swaying backwards and forwards with every brake or acceleration.

    Frankly, I was amazed that I didn’t see more than two or three rollovers in the whole time I was there!

  2. I was in Cambodia last year for some volunteer work setting up wound care education programs in hospitals. I, too, marveled at the volume of people and items that can fit onto a motorbike. I even saw a family with the mother nursing her infant on the back.

    Unfortunately, there are no helmet laws (though some NGOs are working to get them passed in several Asian countries). Motor vehicle accidents are a common cause of injury, especially with traffic lights and line paintings being taken as mere suggestions. We saw many trauma patients with broken bones, head injuries, and spinal cord injuries. Then there were the ones we didn’t see because they died.

    But even in the west we all cut corners to save time or to get the job done. Hence, putting on your mascara, eating your breakfast, listening to the traffic report on the radio, and glancing at the morning financial news in the newspaper while talking on the cell phone with your client while driving to work.

  3. Unfortunately, I don’t have a photo, but…. When I was in the U.S. Army in Saigon in 1970, I had a 50cc Yamaha motorcycle (as far as I know, the only one legally owned and registered through USARV and the Vietnamese authorities by a US soldier).

    My roommate and I decided to build a bookshelf, so we went out on the bike to buy boards and bricks. But how to get them back to the BEQ? Mike sat behind me, facing backwards, holding the stack of boards and bricks steady on the small luggage rack.

    Both of us were in uniform (except for our motorcycle helmets, which were definitely not regulation). Must have been *quite* a sight!

  4. For some reason, when I read “gas barbecue”, what came to mind was a propane tank. The picture above certainly cleared up that misconception.

  5. Your story this week really made me smile. I moved recently, and the movers I hired were from China. They could barely speak a word of English, but man, they knew how to load a truck! It seemed like they were loading everything upside down and in the most precarious possible arrangement. I thought I was going to have a heart attack! Yet there were no casualties, and it was it was the most efficient move I’ve ever had. Gotta love that feng shui engineering!

  6. My husband and I had to move a kite he had built. It was a 3-masted ship — 4 feet from bow to stern and at least 2 feet wide. He drove the bike while I sat back-to-back holding on to the kite. Several people wanted to know if the ship would float. “No”, I called back. “It flies!!”

  7. Those were funny, except the one with those seven very young looking little kids crammed on there. That one terrified me because it looked so unsafe and potentially dangerous.

    They’re all dangerous, just in different ways. And some are a bit more obviously dangerous…. -rc

  8. Something is wrong when putting 7 people on a bike is the only one that seems dangerous. Having a picture in the driver’s face that completely blocks his view? Oh yeah, and he has no hands on the bike. If that doesn’t seem unsafe, I’m glad I don’t live close to you!

    I doubt that’s the driver. I think the picture (or mirror — I’ve seen both) is being held by a passenger. Still, you’re correct: they’re all dangerous. -rc

    • I’m late to this party, but you are correct; that is a passenger holding the painting. You can see the driver’s foot and his hand on the handlebars. Still a VERY dangerous stunt!

  9. Good thing you said at the end of your article *not* to send you any more of those pictures. I was all ready to send you a picture from Haiti of a motorbike, two guys, and four live goats. 🙂

    I’ve had quite a few from the Premium readers, so that’s why I thought of saying “no more!” I’ll probably post some of the best ones on Jumbo Joke later. -rc

  10. Reminds me of when I delivered and installed king sized waterbeds, wooden pedestals, frames and all, with my MGB roadster (an english 2 seat sportscar). I had a roll bar, and just stacked everything on the roll bar and windshield, tied it down, and away I went, even on the freeway. Needless to say, there were numerous customers that insisted that a truck had delivered everything, and did not believe that I had brought it all on my little sports car.

  11. Like JH, I was ready to send you some pictures I have of crazy bike riders, but I thought I would finish reading first. Glad I did. Also, in larger versions of the picture/mirror carriers, you can see the legs of the person driving the bike.

  12. In the picture of the bike with all the boxes…

    You notice he had his 6 packs safely in the basket of the bike. He isn’t that stupid!

  13. I wonder about the good sense of criticising (mostly) Asians for the loads they carry on motorbikes. These are people who can’t afford the luxury of using two men and a 10mpg truck to deliver a piece of furniture. If we had more of that spirit — tho I’m not advocating carrying the loads they do — we’d be doing our pocketbooks and the environment a favor.

    Who’s criticizing? Yes, I’ve pointed out that much of this is dangerous (as you also imply), but that’s the simple truth. Expressing amusement at an astounding sight is not being “critical”.

    As to your main point, sadly a modern American truck that gets 10 mpg probably produces less smog than a typical Chinese motorbike, since they don’t have pollution control standards there. That we do is one of the reasons modern American trucks only get 10 mpg. -rc

  14. “they don’t have pollution control standards there” is a truly ignorant statement. As anyone who follows the news would know, the US has some of the most lax (virtually non-existant) pollution standards. China has considerably stronger pollution standards than the US or Canada, though still a bit weaker than Japan or the EU.

    I’ve been there, and have seen the pollution spewing from exhaust pipes and smoke stacks. Have you? -rc

  15. The guy that said that China has more pollution controls than the US must have his head stuck in the ground to make such an asinine statement.

    China has the worst pollution record than almost any country in the world and virtually has no controls at all (as stated above by author).

    And the US has some of the highest controls (due to noisy activists, but still true). Just look at the states that force drivers to pay fines and fees to get their car’s exahust tested every other year (ever hear of that overseas? I don’t think so).

    Some people just love to hate the US and it comes out in every single post they make no matter what subject, they cant believe that the US would be better on any subject than any other country. Makes you wonder why they live here.

  16. The comment about testing car exhausts every two years in the States. In the UK all vehicles over three years old are tested annually and this includes an instrumented check on the exhaust emissions. I believe the same applies in Europe.

  17. I’ve been to China when we adopted our daughter 5 years ago and was amazed at some of the things they were able to transport on a motorcycle. As for the pollution we were in different areas some were very strict and very clean around Beijing but by Guanzhou it was pretty dirty and polluted.

  18. One time while I was in the Navy we packed 7, possibly 8 it was a long time ago, people on a Honda 750, but we only rode for about a block just to see if it could be done. Uh, none of us were wearing helmets either. tsk tsk.

  19. This reminds me of when I was a teenager on holiday in Greece. We were at a small Taverna in a quiet village and the local policeman turned up on his police motor bike with his wife and 2 kids on! I wish I had a picture of it.

  20. I was in Honduras for two years in the Peace Corps, and piling the transportation to the brim was the norm — we almost always had furniture or boxes or piles of stuff in the aisle of the bus on the way back from the city. (Which was a real problem the day the bus engine caught fire.) So few people had transportation that those who did usually took everyone and everything that they could. This also included animals, mostly chickens. A chicken loose in a moving bus is NOT a fun thing.

    I, myself, have ridden in the top luggage rack of a bus with all sorts of suitcases and other junk (that was REALLY bad, I almost fell off a few times), in the back of a pick-up with thirty other people with everyone standing and holding onto each other so no one would fall out, and with eight other people in a small car. And those are just the times that stand out.

    It’s definitely not safe, but if that’s the only transportation going through that day, you’ve got no choice. Waiting until the next day just gets you back in the same position — except maybe, if you’re lucky, you’re the one inside and not outside. Being stranded is no fun; I got stuck in the middle of nowhere once and had to walk seven miles to get to a town with transportation because the car I had been riding in died; fortunately, I had only a small backpack to carry. And there’s the time I got stuck sleeping on the street with a bunch of other people because the bus that was supposed to show never did. So, under those circumstances, the rule is if it’s moving, GET ON! Not safe, but if I had waited for safe, I’d probably still be there waiting for a ride…

    Everyone who DID have transportation was extremely generous; if they saw you on the side of the road and they had room, they’d give you a ride whether they knew you or not. I can’t tell you how many times I was waiting for a bus and had someone with a pick-up with people riding in the back stop and give me a ride. And they never asked anything in return. That generosity is something that I still miss.

  21. I live in Bangkok and used to live in China, and you sure do see some amazing feats involving motorbikes and even bicycles. Just a few days ago I was walking down the narrow lane where my apartment is, and was astonished at a bicycle piled high with what appeared to be flattened cardboard boxes, all the same size. They must have held really large items (or numerous small ones), as they were about 4-feet — in all three dimensions. The seat and a small luggage rack behind the seat were completely covered — a tiny lady was pushing the bicycle — and towered maybe 8 feet high, from the pavement to the top. I don’t know how the lady managed even to push it!

    Then there are trains in places such as India. I’ve never been there, but my Mother has, and some of the most amazing pictures she took were of jam-packed trains — including the tops. But it’s not all that uncommon to see media reports of people getting killed, either from falling off or getting knocked off when the train goes through a tunnel, and that is sad.

  22. I saw this at first and I thought that’s not weird at all, why would they press charges for that. Then I remembered I live in the states again and people here think it’s bad to ride 30 to a minivan. I lived a time in Guatemala and I saw much stranger things being transported by bike, bus, motorcycle, or any other way they could.

    We once fit 6 adults (not including the driver), a grill, 6 large backpacks, assorted grocery bags, a jumbo pack of iso-max (fake Gatorade), and a good sized cooler in a tuc-tuc. Needless to say, most of us were at least partially outside the vehicle. Where people know to look out for things like that it isn’t as big a deal.

  23. Sorry, I don’t see too much of a problem with the Aussie and the grill, and I think the fine and suspension were a bit steep; nanny state over reaction from a magistrate who likely doesn’t ride. It disturbs me to see a driver on a cell phone, but you can bet Mr. Wiles was giving his full attention to his riding. On local roads, he’d be fine. Not on a highway.

    The biker himself disagrees with you. He said it was unsafe. He should know: he was there. -rc

  24. I’m a chiropractor in Indiana. Last year I finally accepted an invitation to treat an Amish community about 70 miles from my office. I did so using a portable adjusting table which straps to the sissy bar on my motorcycle behind my wife. We hung our backpack behind the table. The speed limit is such that the bike remained completely stable under all conditions, but I suspect that with that table serving as an oversized whale tail, I’d be doing a wheelie if I went much over 70 mph.

  25. I saw a pic on a web page that I posted in facebook that beats out your 7 person motorbike by 1 person. A baby being held by the last kid on the bike.

    Watch that pothole! -rc

  26. Looking at the original photo, it really doesn’t appear that the rider was acting inappropriately, and the ONLY reason he admitted to it would be because his lawyer advised him to plead guilty and admit to reckless behaviour in order for the penalty to be the bare minimum – which of course he got because he pleaded guilty when in fact if anything he was even more protected thanks to the grill. Lawyers in Australia don’t always act in their clients best interests but do at least know how to minimise sentences. Sometimes, however, a not guilty plea with an expression of ignorance is even better insurance against an unjust punishment.

    Even more, the fact that he is a New Zealand citizen means he could probably have escaped any road rule he wanted by claiming non Australian citizenship, as all road rules are policed by the individual states. As he is not a citizen or licence holder of any particular state, he is legitimately exempt from local state laws. So long as he was wearing his helmet, not talking on a mobile phone, used his indicator and didn’t speed, no actual crime was committed. No harm, no foul, give him his money back and send him to high school, poor Kiwis don’t even get the basics in education over the ditch.

  27. I agree with Ed: I find nothing particularly wrong with the barbecue transporter. The load was symmetrically loaded, and doesn’t appear so heavy as to make the bike, rider, and load top-heavy; the rider’s view seems unobstructed.

    Yes, the rider said it was unsafe, afterwards, but of what value is that? He was under scrutiny by the court and the media. He was getting out from under the pressure put on him, for goodness sake!

    By the time he talked to the media, court was over and sentence handed down. If he felt that it was unfair, he could have said so without suffering any further penalty. So your plea is, “He’s a wuss.” That’s supposed to be better?

    Is the whole thing silly? Certainly. But he manned up and admitted it was a bad idea. For that, I admire him — while others wail and cry over how unfair it all is. Frankly, I think we need more people standing up and saying “I made a mistake” rather than “I’m a victim here! Wah!” -rc

  28. The only question I have is how did they identify him from the photo? I would have just plead mistaken identity, but then again, I wouldn’t have been riding a motorcycle with a barbeque around me!

  29. David and Eddy may not be familiar with wind dynamics on a motorcycle’s stability. I can tell you from experience that on a highway, like the one on which this motorcyclist seems to be driving, at highway speeds, you can tell the difference in wind resistance between wearing a jacket, and just wearing short sleeves. With all that surface area the grill in question would have obvious detrimental effects on stability at highway speeds, not to mention the decreased visibility he had due to the way the grill was positioned. The rider said it was unsafe. He ought to know.

  30. To all those who are saying it was not particularly dangerous for the motorcyclist to be carrying the barbeque – are you serious? He may not be at a higher risk of having an accident, but what if he WAS involved in an accident? The potential for and severity of injury (especially to him, but also to others) has got to be worse with all those wooden spears and metal wrapped around his upper body. Randy has some experience in emergency services and may like to comment on that.

    I can say with confidence that I’ve never been to an accident where a biker was wrapped in a barbecue grill — especially prior to impact! I’ve ridden bikes myself, and would think that the dramatic change in wind resistance would make the bike much less stable at the very least — more and more so at higher speeds. To me, it’s not so much that, since when things start to feel unstable he can slow down, if there is any kind of emergency (need to stop or swerve), the odds of not being able to get out of it safely are greatly diminished — which is to say, the odds of crashing are much higher with such a bulk and unstable and unusual load. So in that sense, it does seem much more dangerous to me. -rc

  31. The fact that the rider is somewhat less safe is besides the point. Of course stability may be affected and wind resistance increased, but considering it’s not a windy pot-holed back-road, but a major highway with good visibility, the calculated risk was taken and subsequently the rider got lucky.

    The REAL issue here is the interpretation of the law. It’s the solicitor’s legally bound duty to do the very best by their client to defend him. To research the applicable laws, to discover precedent or argue for a new one, to explain the applicable laws (with references) to the magistrate to describe how, technically, his client was not acting unlawfully. Stupidity is, at this point in time, not a crime.

    On another point, by definition, a crime MUST have an accuser, a victim. Who is the victim, RC, if not the rider for being penalised simply for acting outside of the sensible norm? It’s as ludicrous as victim-less drug laws where laws are policed merely to CREATE victims, not prosecute crimes whereby there is an actual victim pressing charges.

    A decent investigative journalist might even contact the relevent prosecutor to see under which actual law the rider was charged and fined. Negligence must be given the benefit of the doubt, ie, what negligent act resulted from the behaviour? Often, due to the humiliating way victims are treated in courts of law, especially when their own lawyer betrays them and fails dismally to do their job, they naturally react by agreeing that something that seemed like a good idea at the time, once caught and humiliated, was actually a pretty dumb thing to do. It’s easier to laugh at yourself and walk away than to defend yourself in a ridiculous police-state where even the lawyers are corrupt and inept.

    You’re being disingenuous. When there’s no accident or other inconvenience, who’s the “victim” of a speeder? No one! Yet society is in agreement that speeders increase the risk of accidents, and a significant amount of police time is spent enforcing speed limits. Same with drunk drivers: “But I got home without hurting anyone!” is not a valid defense. In the case under discussion, the biker’s lawyer obviously allowed him to plead guilty. So your point is…? -rc

  32. Notice any difference between “Stuart’s” motorcycle and the ones in the “Asia” photos (I saw the same sort of stuff in India)? Those folks never get above 25 mph. None of them are wearing helmets, either. It’s a different world….

  33. My 22 years riding bike all year round earned me a rep of being a bit nutz. I live in the mountains of North east Pa. I have carried 55 gal drums home on my bike, regular bales of hay, fully assembled exhaust system for a ford taurus. And many many more oversize items. it is all about balance and luck not getting stopped.


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